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Theodore Watson Letters

Identifier: Midwest-MS-Watson

Scope and Content of the Collection

The collection consists of ten letters from Theodore Watson to his brother John Watson, describing his life in the army, written from April 27 to July 7, 1961. The early letters are full of enthusiasm for daily army life, with everyone in high spirits, getting plenty of food and sleep. When the company settles in Camp Defiance in Cairo, Watson is feeling well, ready for action, still having an easy time of it - singing, playing games, swimming and enjoying camp life. However, though he's proud of the drilling skills of his group, by early July he has grown tired and bored, and feels ill. Watson advises his brother John not to enlist and he himself is not going to sign on for the three-year enlistment period.

The purchase documentation lists eleven letters. However, two were parts of other letters, so there are actually only nine letters. It is also possible that two other sheets are also separated parts of a single letter. A transcription, on acid-free paper, is filed with each letter.


  • Creation: 1861 April 27-July 7



Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The Theodore Watson Letters are open for research in the Special Collections Reading Room; 5 folders at a time maximum, and items in each folder will be counted before and after delivery to the patron (Priority I).

Ownership and Literary Rights

The Theodore Watson Letters are the physical property of the Newberry Library. Copyright may belong to the authors or their legal heirs or assigns. For permission to publish or reproduce any materials from this collection, contact the Roger and Julie Baskes Department of Special Collections.

Biography of Theodore Watson

Illinois Civil War Soldier

Theodore Watson, a young man from Hillsboro, Montgomery County, Illinois, was mustered into H Company, 3rd Illinois Volunteers in Springfield, Illinois, on April 26, 1861. The 3rd was moved to Cairo, Illinois, for garrison duty at Camp Defiance, attached to Captain Prentiss's Brigade. Originally a ninety-day unit, the 3rd became the 9th Illinois Regiment under Prentiss, with a three-year enlistment period. Watson chose not to re-enlist and was mustered out July 26, 1861.


0.2 Linear Feet (1 box)


Letters from Theodore Watson to his brother John in Hillsboro, Illinois, during the early months of the Civil War. Correspondence describes his life as a three-month enlistee in the Illinois 3rd Company (later the Illinois 9th Regiment) stationed at Camp Defiance to defend Cairo, Illinois.


Materials arranged chronologically.

Collection Stack Location

1 35 2


Purchased from Charles Apfelbaum, Rare Manuscripts & Archives, April, 2003.

Processed by

Virginia H. Smith, 2004

Inventory of the Theodore Watson Letters, 1861 April 27-July 7
Virginia H. Smith
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the The Newberry Library - Modern Manuscripts and Archives Repository

60 West Walton Street
Chicago Illinois 60610 United States